It was a quiet day in my office at the corner of Hollywood and Reality. The sky outside the window of my meagre little office was a dull slate grey. The cause of the utter lack of sunlight was that a bunch of celebrities had formed an impromptu parade of their SUVs to protest global warming. Poor Ed Begley Jr. lay on the sidewalk, gasping for air, as he tried to explain the irony of their actions.
There was a knock on my door.
"Come in," I said.
The door opened with a creak, then creak stepped aside, and in walked a tall leggy bottle-blond who I recognized as Marseilles Metro the party-girl and movie heiress, her business partner, a lion named Leo Goldwyn, and the ghost of Louis B. Mayer. They worked as a combo called M.G.M..
"Are you Furious D," asked Marseilles, "the Private Dick?"
"I could be," I answered, my tone both manly and cynical, yet with a hint of noir-tinged heroism.
"Then you're the man we need," growled Leo Goldwyn the Lion.
"I don't even know why I'm here," said the ghost of Louis B. Mayer rattling the chains that covered his impeccably tailored suit, "I'm not only dead, I've been out of the company for over 50 years."
"Why don't you sit down and tell me your troubles," I said, "but leave out anything that involves itching and burning sensations, that's not my bailiwick."
"Read this," said Leo, passing me a slip of paper, which was impressive since he didn't have opposable thumbs.
I took the slip, it was a printout from the IMDB movie news section:
Who's Running United Artists?"What does this have to do with me?" I asked.
28 August 2008 10:01 AM, PDT
While several trade reports indicated this week that Paula Wagner will not be replaced as CEO of United Artists, leaving Tom Cruise in charge of the studio, Cruise himself is balking at the notion that he will take over Wagner's responsibilities. "I don't run United Artists," he told syndicated columnist Liz Smith. "I just own it." (So, technically, does Wagner, it would appear.) Commenting on Wagner's decision to leave UA, Cruise said, "I love Paula Wagner, but she wants to produce elsewhere and in her own venue, and I don't intend to stand in her way. I'll say this of her leaving United Artists -- whatever Paula wants is what I want her to have! And I hope we'll continue working together on future projects."
"We own the majority of United Artists," said Marseilles.
"I don't," said the ghost of Mayer. "I never did. I don't even know why I'm even involved."
"It's your penance for Patricia Douglas, Ted Healy, William Haines, and Paul Bern," growled the Lion.
"Oh yeah," said Mayer, "all that."
"Can we get back to talking about me and my part in all this?" I asked.
Leo Goldwyn turned to face me, "Look our operation's been in rough shape for a long time. It's not getting any better with equity investors being scared off by Hollywood's accounting practises, and we have United Artists, a company with a $500 million credit line, and nothing is getting done, and now the company doesn't have a head. We need you to find out what the hell is going on over there."
"Have you tried asking them yourselves?"
The trio shrugged, then Marseilles answered: "We probably haven't asked because we're just made up for the purpose of this stupid little story."
"Okay," I said, "I'll take the case. But since you're fictional, I want cash up front."
Cash in hand I went down to MGM headquarters in one of the seedier parts of Beverly Hills. Outside was what I thought was a homeless man, but then realized it was Harvey Weinstein.
"Hey bub," said Harvey shoving a film can into my hand, "take this, now it's officially released, so give me some more investment money."
"Scram," I said, "before I take do a knuckle polka and give your noggin a floggin!"
"What," said Harvey, "I don't get your hard-boiled lingo."
Damn, I hated lingo jams. I was going to have to be crea
"Hey," I said pointing over Harvey's shoulder, "there's a promising independent film you can buy and bury!"
"Where!?!" asked Harvey, scurrying off to find it.
I had just reached the door to the MGM/UA office when I heard a bad buzz, and it wasn't about the production of Valkyrie. It could only be one thing....
"Elliot Gould?" I asked when the Killer Bees swarmed around me.
"Yeah," said Gould, "whaddya want?"
"I'm here to find out who's running United Artists," I said, "what's the buzz?"
Elliot Gould shrugged.
"I haven't heard a thing," said Gould, "I've been too busy waiting for an Ocean's 14."
"Too bad," I said, as I passed by into the MGM building.
"Hello Sweetycakes," I said the United Artists Receptionist, Sweetycakes McGee.
"Hello Furious," she said as she filed her nails, according to size, and whether they had been galvanized or not. "Whaddya want, because I gotta file some hammers after these."
"I need to see Tom Cruise," I said, "I've been hired to find out who's running this joint."
"Do you really think that you can just swan on in here," said Sweetycakes, "without an appointment, or any advance warning, and just think that you can talk to one of the most important movie stars in the world?"
"Yeah," I answered.
"Okay," said Sweetycakes, "he's in his office. It's down the hall, and has his name written in crayon on the door." She then passed me a lunch box with a picture of Fred Flintstone on the front. "And you can take him his lunch while you're at it."
I thanked her and headed down the hall to see Tom Cruise.
I knocked the door, but when insulting the inanimate object didn't get it to open, I instead turned the knob and walked in.
The office was empty, except for a life size cardboard cut-out of L. Ron Hubbard, next to the desk.
"Hello?" I said, looking for trouble, and I found it.
Out from behind a desk popped a puppet, a sock puppet to be exact, made from an old tube sock with a pair of buttons sewn on for eyes.
"Who are you?" asked the puppet with a high squeaky voice that I realized was coming from beneath the desk. "Go away!"
"I can't tell you who I am if I go away," I said.
"Damn you and your riddles!" grumbled the puppet.
"I'm Furious D," I said, "I'm a dick."
"There are a lot of them in Hollywood," said the puppet.
"I'm looking for Tom Cruise," I said, playing along as I inched closer to his desk.
"He's not here," snapped the puppet, "go away."
"That's a shame," I said nonchalantly, "because I have his lunch right here." I opened the box and took a sniff of the contents. "Ooh, it's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and a chocolate milk."
"Chocolate?" asked the puppet, hunger reflecting in its button eyes.
"Yep," I answered, placing the lunch box on the desk.
The puppet slid closer the lunch box, smacking its 100% cotton lips in anticipation.
Then I struck. I grabbed the puppet by it's puppet neck, and yanked.
Out popped all four feet and nine inches of Tom Cruise, and he looked scared.
"Ouch!" growled Cruise, "That hurt."
"I'm looking for some answers," I said.
"Well I don't have any."
"I wanna know who runs United Artists."
"It's Paula Wagner," said Tom Cruise.
"No it isn't," I said, "she quit."
"But I just own the company," said Cruise, his voice cracking like a schoolboy. "I don't run it. Really I don't."
"Somebody has to," I said, "there's a company to run and people's jobs are stake."
"That's a lot of responsibility," said Cruise. He was trembling, so I let him go and passed him his carton of chocolate milk, after helping him get the straw in, I continued my spiel.
"It is," I added, "especially when you have a $500 million credit line to get this company moving again."
"That's a lot of money," said Cruise, taking a sip of his chocolate milk. "What am I supposed to do with it?"
"Make movies," I said. "Preferably ones that make money, so you can make more movies."
"This is too damn complicated," said Cruise. "Paula was always so good at doing the thinking for me."
"It's not rocket science," I added, "it's business."
"But I'm an actor!" mewled Cruise. "I don't have any actual or useful skills. I mean I made an anti-war movie, and Hollywood's still doesn't like me."
"Yeah," I said, "the first lesson is that the opinions of Hollywood doesn't mean crap. I mean Lions for Lambs was a bungle of the first odour, and that' ill-will is probably going to hurt Valkyrie too."
"I was hoping for an Oscar nomination," said Cruise.
"Right now," I said, "Oscars are about as useful as a brassiere on a bull. What you need to do is to do the kind of movies where you played the cocky, obnoxious, but sort of likable go-getter having crazy adventures doing crazy jobs."
"Will that make Hollywood like me?"
"Screw Hollywood," I barked, "it's the audience that matters. If you put their bums into theatre seats the rest of Hollywood will have no choice but to kiss your bony ass. Because who brings in the green is the one who will ultimately make the scene."
"Really?" asked Cruise, hope starting to glint in his eyes.
"Yes," I said, "all you have to do is make your movies crowd pleasing, and for a modest budget. It'll be a lot of work but--"
"WORK!" screamed Cruise, as he leaped from his chair and ran headlong into the closet, slamming the door shut behind him.
"I'm not using that gag," I said, turning to leave the office. I did find out who was running United Artists, it was nobody.